At least 55 people were killed in the Syrian capital, Damascus, in what the Interior Ministry said was a double suicide-bomb attack.
Two cars containing at least 1,000 kilograms of explosives blew up in the Qazzaz district, the Interior Ministry said, according to the state-run SANA news agency. They brought down the front of a building where security offices are located, sent cars flying across the street and created two deep craters. At least 372 people were injured, the ministry said. Glass and debris littered the streets.
The attacks occurred as students were headed to school and people to work, the ministry said. State television showed footage of people removing burned bodies and inspecting mangled cars at the scene of the explosions.
President Bashar al-Assad is fighting a nationwide rebellion that has spread as security forces killed thousands of Syrians during a campaign to crush protests that began in March last year. The government has blamed the unrest on Islamic extremists with foreign backing. The United Nations has sent observers to monitor a cease-fire agreed to by both sides last month that has reduced the violence without halting it.
UN monitors visited the site of the blast in Damascus. Kofi Annan, the UN’s special envoy to Syria, condemned today’s attack in the “strongest possible terms” and renewed his call for an end to violence, his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in an e-mailed statement from Geneva.
‘Reprehensible,’ Says U.S.
The U.S. also condemned the bombing in a statement issued by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
“Any and all violence that results in the indiscriminate killing and injury of civilians is reprehensible and cannot be justified,” she said. “In order to prevent another escalation of violence, we continue to call on the Syrian regime to fully and immediately implement the Annan plan.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country won’t change its opposition to military intervention in Syria. “Some forces are putting pressure on us to change our stand,” Lavrov said at a news conference, according to a pool report by reporters in Beijing. “We won’t give in.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, standing beside Lavrov, also spoke against “interfering” with Syria, according to the pool report.
After a bomb blast close to a convoy carrying the UN mission’s chief yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly that there is only a “brief window” to end the conflict in Syria, and warned that it may escalate into a “full-scale civil war with catastrophic effects.”
Today’s explosions rattled windows across the city and sent a black plume of smoke into the sky. Fadia Kassar, 47, said her daughter and son were injured from flying glass in their apartment. “Walls came down in my apartment,” she said. “I never expected something like this to happen in real life.”
At the Mujtahed Hospital in Damascus, people milled around the wards and morgue seeking to identify loved ones. Some of the injured, their skin caked with blood, were telling relatives by phone that they were still alive. The hospital received 29 bodies and 103 injured people, as well as eight bags full of human remains, said its manager, Adib Mahmoud.